Get to know Afton Trail, Senior Managing Director, in our Phoenix office.
Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and spent some of my childhood in Northern California and Arizona. I currently live in a suburb of Phoenix known as Ahwatukee. It is a beautiful neighborhood tucked up against the South Mountains.
What was your first job?
I had two jobs in high school: one was at McDonald’s where I earned the cash for my car payment, insurance, gas, concert tickets, and the other things teenagers deem important, and the other was in the administrative office of an elementary school where I honed my office skills, interpersonal communication skills, and received credit as if I was attending a class.
Describe your career in real estate?
I began working as a receptionist for a small real estate firm in Phoenix. Although I was going to school to be an architect, I fell in love with property management. Shortly after I started working there, the firm relocated to Los Angeles. Three higher level employees left to form their own company and since I did not want to move I went to work for their new company, CBS Property Services. As the firm’s only employee, I had unique insight into setting up a company and establishing a platform. Ten years later I took a position with R&B Commercial Real Estate where I picked up leasing, acquisition, and disposition experience. I was approached by CBRE in 1997 to help build their Phoenix office portfolio. After a short time, I was promoted to Managing Director and spent the next 12 years overseeing the Asset Services division in Phoenix and Las Vegas. In 2012, I assumed the Investor Services leader position for the southwest, focused on client care and development, capital markets oversight, and new business development until I started my current position with Cushman & Wakefield in 2015.
Do you believe that putting top priority on the relationship is a differentiator for our company?
Without a doubt! A strong, trusting relationship with a client is integral to success. Over the 30+ years I have been in commercial real estate, the trust built with clients has forged long term relationships that have helped overcome challenges. Our firm’s position of putting the client first, maintaining flexibility within reason, and partnering with the right clients will guide our success.
What books do you recommend to people entering the industry?
Although I am a reader and always excited to learn something new, I caution entry level commercial real estate employees about reading too much. What we do is very unique, and if someone has extra time on their hands when they enter the industry, I suggest they use it to meet with people in the industry, attend industry functions, delve into their companies training programs, get a designation, and if they must read, read a lease.
I enjoy jazz or old classics at dinner, “pump me up” rock and roll on the ski slopes, and country in the car.
What skills / qualities do you look for when hiring / promoting someone?
I strongly believe that technical skills can be taught but attitude and character cannot. I’ll take a team of positive, honest, hardworking employees over technically qualified candidates any day. And, if an employee has great interpersonal communication skills, a drive to learn, and leadership skills, that’s just icing on the cake.
What advice would you give a young professional?
Understand and embrace your weaknesses but focus on your strengths. Then, surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak. Nobody can be great at everything, but you can easily form a team that is.
What vacation spot?
Whistler for skiing, the Caribbean for beaches and snorkeling, Pebble Beach for golf, the northeast for history (although I’m developing a soft spot for civil war sites in the south), and Europe for cultural diversity.
My family! They support me, challenge me, teach me, love me, pick me up when I’m down, bring me back to earth when I get too big for my own britches, and force me to be real in all that I do.
Who is your role model?
My mother. She raised seven children as a single mother and worked two jobs to raise us. Although we didn’t have many luxuries we always had food, clothing, and a roof over our heads. She never had a bad word to say about anybody and was the most forgiving person I have ever known. She taught us to be strong, to go after what we wanted, and to remember that we were entitled to nothing, yet there was no goal out of our reach.
Do you have any pets?
I have two male Boxers, Patton is almost six and Jackson just turned two.
What is the 1 thing in the world you are most proud of?
My daughter, Shannon. Raising a daughter as a single mom working full time is fraught with imbalance, guilt, and insecurity. I never knew if I was doing the right thing, but at 18, she departed for college and gave me a letter that told me I did everything just right. She earned an athletic and academic scholarship, graduated from the WP Carey School of Business with a degree in finance and a minor in management, is employed as a financial analyst full time, is married to a wonderful young man, and is a wonderful mom herself raising my two grandchildren.
What do you believe is the most important personal attribute that you bring to your job?
Energy and passion for what we do and a positive attitude toward change management. Plus, I really like roller coasters—this ride is awesome!
What is your favorite thing about Cushman & Wakefield?
The energy and excitement associated with building something new, along with the amazing brain trust that senior leadership has brought together.
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